After three years of misery in the Allianz NFL, Westmeath’s senior footballers are finally on an upward trajectory.
Wexford – for the second time in a couple of weeks – were the latest victims of that resurgence. In late March, their second string suffered a thrashing by Westmeath in Wexford Park, but little redemption was found by Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney’s first XV in today’s Division 4 final in Croke Park.
Westmeath closed out the half with a 1-11 to 1-4 lead, but the gulf between the sides was understated by the comparatively thin margin of seven points.
Four of the Lake County’s forwards scored in the first half, while Ger Egan coolly slotted home a penalty, contributing to a 1-7 to 0-3 lead before Wexford’s Kevin O’Grady netted against the run of play.
With midfielders Egan and Alan Stone dominating proceedings, John Heslin at his usual best and the forward trio of Paul Sharry, Tommy McDaniel and man of the match Kieran Martin thriving in terrific conditions, Wexford faced an uphill battle in the second half.
Indeed, of the ten forwards used by Westmeath on the day, all but two managed to make the scoresheet.
One of the substitutes, St Loman’s, Mullingar’s Shane Dempsey, added a fortuitous second goal in the final quarter, when his tame shot was fumbled into the net by Wexford ‘keeper Shane Roche. By that stage, Tom Cribbin’s men were 2-22 to 1-9 – comparable to a hurling score – ahead.
Westmeath took their collective foot off the gas in the final minutes, although Heslin had an attempt at a third goal saved. At the other end, Wexford sub Donal Shanley finished out the game with 1-2 to take the dirty look off the scoreline.
However, this didn’t take away from Westmeath’s utter dominance on the day, and as well as being a morale booster, the win marked the Maroons’ first senior trophy since the Division 2 win in 2008.
Captain Ger Egan, meanwhile – on top of being the first man to skipper Westmeath to two Leinster SFC finals – became the first Lake County footballer to lift a trophy in Croke Park since David O’Shaughnessy accepted the Delaney Cup in 2004.
Nobody’s under any illusions – it’s still only Division 4, and this Westmeath panel is capable of hitting loftier targets. But at least, as far as the league is concerned, the winning mentality is back.
Roll on the championship and Offaly in June, and hopefully, another crack at the Dubs in Croker.
Westmeath: J Heslin 0-8 (5f), G Egan 1-2 (1-0 pen), S Dempsey 1-1, K Martin 0-4, P Sharry and T McDaniel 0-3 each, J Connellan 0-2, K Reilly 0-1. Wexford: D Shanley 1-2 (0-1f, 0-1 45), K O'Grady 1-1, C Lyng 0-4 (3f), PJ Banville 0-2, M Furlong 0-1, D Waters 0-1.
Darren Quinn; Kevin Maguire, Mark McCallon, Jamie Gonoud; James Dolan, Killian Daly, Noel Mulligan; Alan Stone, Ger Egan; Kelvin Reilly, Paul Sharry, David Lynch; Kieran Martin, John Heslin, Tommy McDaniels. Subs: Denis Glennon for Daly (48), Shane Dempsey for McDaniels (52), Denis Corroon for Stone (55), John Egan for Mulligan (57), John Connellan for Martin (62), Callum McCormack for Lynch (66).
Shane Roche; Ronan Devereux, Jim Rossiter, Michael Furlong; Brian Malone, Eoghan Nolan, Kevin O'Grady; Daithi Waters, Colm Kehoe; John Leacy, Ben Brosnan, Paul Curtis; Ciaran Lyng, John Tubtitt, PJ Banville. Subs: Conor Carty for Curtis (29), Adrian Flynn for Leacy (h/t), Michael O'Regan for Devereux (h/t), Donal Shanley for Brosnan (43), Joey Wadding for Tubritt (51), Tiarnan Rossiter for Nolan (56), Carty (b/c, 63).
Paul Faloon (Down).